Dean's Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program

Overview and Goals

As part of its efforts to better support Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School is pleased to provide the timeline and details for the sixth-year-funding program. Given the situation with COVID-19 and its impact on students’ dissertation progress, we are again extending eligibility for this program by a full year so that nominated students may hold the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall of their sixth year (as is typical), the spring of their sixth year, or even the fall of their seventh year.

This program, which originated from the work and recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School, has two components. The first component is the Dean’s Completion Fellowship. It pays the Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) tuition fee and provides fellowship funding at the full standard stipend rate to selected sixth-year (or, currently, seventh-year students) in the humanities and social sciences. Students selected for the program who finish dissertation work and successfully complete the Final Public Oral (FPO) before the end of the semester in which they hold the fellowship then have the opportunity to be appointed as Postgraduate Research Associates (PGRAs) through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. Given the challenges of scheduling FPOs in the second half of December, students who hold the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall semester are given one additional month (January) to complete the FPO and still qualify for the PGRA appointment. (Fellowship continues for them in the month of January to support their possible completion.) Students who hold the Fellowship in the spring semester have until the end of May to complete the FPO and qualify for the PGRA appointment.

The goals of the program are 1) to provide an additional and generous form of financial support to promising sixth-year students (and, as a response to Covid-19, some seventh-year students) in the form of fellowship, allowing them to focus on completion of the dissertation; 2) to incentivize completion of the degree, allowing students selected for the program who complete the FPO before the end of January (for those who hold the DCF in the fall) or before the end of May (for those who hold the DCF in the spring) to transition to PGRA appointments via the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, with an increase in pay, a secure employment affiliation with the University for a set period of time and an opportunity to engage in activities that will make them stronger candidates for the careers they choose to pursue; and 3) to alleviate funding pressures for all other students in DCE status not selected as part of this program by taking the students selected for the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program out of the competition for other existing funding sources (AI appointments, Writing Program appointments, departmental funds, etc.).

Relation to Existing Programs and Policies

The Dean’s Completion/PGRA Program is intended to provide funding opportunities on top of existing programs and policies, and not to replace or diminish those existing programs or policies. Departments that already provide funding to their students in DCE status are not penalized in the allocation of slots they receive for this program. Similarly, policies that currently allow students in the humanities and social sciences to bank a year of fellowship funding for use in a sixth year (or, currently, seventh) continue. The childbirth and adoption accommodation policy also continues to allow qualifying students to receive fellowship while in DCE status.

The Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is not in any way an extension of the regular program length associated with our Ph.D. programs. Sixth- and seventh-year students who have not yet completed the FPO are still in all cases enrolled in dissertation completion enrollment (DCE) status, even while receiving the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall semester. Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients receive guaranteed funding as students while they are enrolled in DCE status in the fall or spring semester, just as students who bank a year of funding, receive the IHUM fellowship, or qualify for the childbirth and adoption accommodation receive guaranteed funds while enrolled in DCE status. If they complete the FPO by the end of January (for those who hold the Fellowship in the fall) or by the end of May (for those who hold the Fellowship in the spring), they then transfer to PGRA status as employees. If they do not complete the FPO by the deadline, they may continue on in DCE status as students, according to the normal DCE status rules.

Allocation of Slots, Timeline, and Selection

By the end of February, the Graduate School will make a final determination about the number of Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slots available for the next year. For this fifth year of the program, we anticipate that there will be a total of about 50 slots. We are again allocating resources to offer close to 50 slots (rather than the normal 40) in order to support our students impacted by Covid-19. The total number of available slots will be distributed to all participating departments in the humanities and social sciences in proportion to their enrollments of current fifth-year students. The smallest departments will receive at least one slot. In future years, the number of slots allocated to each department may depend in part on successful outcomes from this program (as well as funding and cohort size).

Once a department receives its number of slots for the coming year, it will begin a process of determining who in the department should receive each slot. Recipients should be selected from among promising students who do not already have secure employment appointments (after the FPO) for the coming year and who may be able to complete the FPO by the deadline associated with the semester in which they hold the Fellowship. If no such student is likely to complete the FPO while holding the Fellowship, departments may select students who would nonetheless benefit most from this funding source as they work to complete their dissertations. Selections are made by the department faculty.

Terms of Appointment as Dean's Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program Recipient

By May 1 a department must determine who will receive its allocated slot(s) and submit to graddean@princeton.edu the following information, compiled as one PDF submission for each selected student:

  • Student name, adviser(s), dissertation title, brief description of dissertation research, and anticipated FPO date.
  • Clear statement of the student’s enrollment year for 2021-22 and semester in which the student should hold the Dean’s Completion Fellowship. For example, a student who will be their sixth year in 2021-22 and will hold the Fellowship in the spring should be noted as “G6 - spring semester.” (As a reminder, students who will be in their seventh year in 2021-22 may only hold the Fellowship in the fall semester).
  • Student’s C.V.
  • Brief (between one-half and one page) description of how/why the department made the selection among all eligible candidates and which faculty participated in the selection process (this required information will help the University secure a waiver of the requirement to post an open employment position for the PGRA appointment).
  • Brief (between one-half and one page) outline of the proposed activities in which the selected student will engage as a PGRA if the student completes the FPO while receiving the Dean’s Completion Fellowship, from anticipated FPO date until end of the PGRA appointment. Activities may include any of the following: research and publication work, advising undergraduate students, administrative duties (within the department or in conjunction with other University offices, including the Writing Program, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Center for Digital Humanities, etc.), and/or teaching a course in the spring semester contingent upon sufficient enrollment and approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. Please note: in order to teach a spring course as a PGRA, a student holding the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall must complete the FPO prior to the end of December, as spring courses will start in January. (In order to teach a fall course as a PGRA, a student holding the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the spring must complete the FPO prior to end of May, which is the normal deadline for that student to qualify for the PGRA appointment).

The information provided will be reviewed by Cole Crittenden and Mary Bechler from the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School and by a representative from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. The deans will notify a department about any issues of a selected student’s proposed activities as a PGRA that may require resolution. Once selections are finalized, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School will issue to selected students a letter confirming their selection as Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients for the fall or spring semester and outlining the process by which they may qualify for PGRA appointment.

In general, it is expected that recipients of the Dean’s Completion Fellowship will not serve as AIs in the semester they are holding the fellowship. The Dean’s Completion Fellowship provides students fellowship funding in order to allow them to focus on completing their dissertations. The program also is intended to remove these students from competition for AI appointments, which other sixth- or seventh-year students may need. If a department believes there are compelling reasons related to professional development for a sixth- or seventh-year-funding recipient to teach in the semester of their fellowship, the department should discuss this situation with Cole Crittenden. If approved to teach, a Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipient will have their fellowship replaced proportionately by the AI appointment (as happens with all enrolled students who receive fellowship funding).

Students selected for a Dean’s Completion Fellowship who will qualify for the childbirth and adoption accommodation policy and have questions about how the accommodation might affect the PGRA appointment timeline should reach out to Cole Crittenden.

Students selected for Dean’s Completion Fellowships must accept the Dean’s Completion Fellowship offer by June 1, regardless of whether they will hold the Fellowship in the fall or the spring semester.

Terms of and Process for Appointment as PGRA

Departments work directly with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty on the administrative requirements associated with a new appointment that must be met before the transition to employment as a PGRA can be finalized. While the Graduate School covers the PGRA salary, the appointment is through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. It is important, therefore, that department managers begin to work with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty on the administrative requirements for appointment a few months before the student’s anticipated FPO date in order to ensure a smooth transition to PGRA status following the successful completion of the FPO. If these administrative requirements are not met, the appointment cannot be finalized, and the student may have a gap period with interruption of benefits and affiliation with Princeton, or may not be able to be appointed as a PGRA at all. Departments should bear the following requirements in mind:

  • For students holding the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall semester, appointment as a PGRA may begin as early as August 1 and as late as February 1 within the same academic year, depending on when the student completes the FPO. In all cases the appointment is contingent on successful completion of the FPO. Official documentation regarding completion must be sent from the Graduate School with the appointment dossier to the Dean of the Faculty. If the FPO is not completed by January 31 for a student holding the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the fall, then the PGRA appointment offer is no longer valid. Students selected for the program who – in rare but possible cases – complete the FPO before the start of the fall term would still see their appointment begin August 1. (Health insurance coverage should not be an issue in such cases, because under our current policy a student who completes the FPO while still enrolled is automatically given a three-month extension of benefits at no charge; employment benefits will be effective at the beginning of the month for the PGRA appointment). Actual time in a PGRA appointment may, therefore, be as short as six months (February 1 to August 1) or as long as 12 months (August 1 to August 1).
  • For students holding the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the spring semester, appointment as a PGRA may begin as early as January 1 and as late as June 1, depending on when the student completes the FPO. In all cases the appointment is contingent on successful completion of the FPO. Official documentation regarding completion must be sent from the Graduate School with the appointment dossier to the Dean of the Faculty. If the FPO is not completed by May 31, then the PGRA appointment offer is no longer valid. Students selected for the program who – in rare but possible cases – complete the FPO before the spring term would still see their appointment begin January 1. (Health insurance coverage should not be an issue in such cases, because under our current policy a student who completes the FPO while still enrolled is automatically given a three-month extension of benefits at no charge; employment benefits will be effective at the beginning of the month for the PGRA appointment). Actual time in a PGRA appointment may, therefore, be as short as seven months (June 1 to January 1) or as long as 12 months (January 1 to January 1). For cases where a PGRA will teach a course as part of their approved PGRA activities, the PGRA appointment will be extended through January 15 to match all other fall-semester teaching appointments.
  • Like all employees in faculty and staff appointments, PGRAs must successfully pass a background check before the appointment can be finalized.
  • The University must secure a position posting waiver, which allows the student to be appointed to the PGRA employment position without an open search. The Office of the Dean of the Faculty will work with the department on this requirement. A description of how the student was chosen for the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slot and who participated in the selection process is essential to secure a waiver.
  • International PGRAs here on a student visa may not begin their appointment without authorization from the Davis International Center in the form of Academic Training (J-1 students) or from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the form of Optional Practical Training (F-1 students). International students should meet with their Davis International Center adviser to discuss their options at least three months before the anticipated FPO date.
  • PGRAs will be employed and paid a salary on a monthly basis through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (from monies allocated by the Graduate School) at the NIH NRSA minimum salary level, which is currently $52,704 (annualized). This rate was effective April 1, 2020. If the NIH NRAS minimum salary level is increased, the PGRA salary will be adjusted accordingly. All PGRAs will be guaranteed the same base salary.
  • For PGRAs who are selected to teach a class as part of their proposed activities, the portion of the PGRA’s duty time associated with the teaching assignment would be paid using the base Lecturer-with-Ph.D. rate stipulated by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. The current base Lecturer-with-PhD salary rate (for 2020-21) is $69,400. While next year’s rate is not yet set, it will be at least this amount. Because the base Lecturer-with-PhD rate is higher than the base PGRA rate, a PGRA carrying a secondary teaching appointment would make a nominally higher amount of pay for the duty time associated with teaching during the teaching months. Any questions about this should be referred to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. The Office of the Dean of the Graduate School has again agreed to cover any differential for the coming year. In future years of the program beyond 2021-22, any differential would likely need to be paid through the department’s teaching budget upon approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty or through department funds. Additionally, if a PGRA teaches a course in either the spring or fall semester, the future PGRA employee and the academic unit that offers the course must meet the normal deadlines and requirements for undergraduate course approval as set by the Office of the Dean of the College and the associated Committee on the Course of Study. As a reminder, PGRAs who will teach a class in the spring semester must have completed the FPO no later than December 31, as spring term courses begin in the month of January under the new academic calendar. If approved, the course may go forward in the spring semester only if the PGRA is successfully appointed to the primary PGRA, and secondary Lecturer, ranks before the start of the course. For all cases where PGRAs are expected to teach, approval is contingent upon final approval by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.
  • Given compliance issues around overseas employment, please note that PGRAs need to conduct their activities as PGRAs from within the U.S. While most PGRAs conduct their work from Princeton’s own campus, any PGRA who may need to conduct research elsewhere should plan only brief research visits outside the U.S. An exception may be granted if the department agrees to cover the mandatory administrative fee incurred to pay individuals working outside the U.S. and with approval from Global Financial Services.  
  • PGRAs who accept an appointment at another institution or at Princeton for any period of time that overlaps with their PGRA appointment must resign as PGRAs effective the date that the new appointment begins, and the department manager must coordinate with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty to end the PGRA appointment.
  • PGRAs are non-renewable, term appointments. After July 31 (for PGRAs who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the previous fall), December 31 (for PGRAs who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship the previous spring and did not teach a course as part of their PGRA activities), or January 15 (for PGRAs who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship the previous spring and who taught a course as part of their PGRA activities), the appointments and associated benefits of PGRAs end (if they have not ended earlier due to a different appointment). A person with a PGRA appointment may continue on at the University after the PGRA end date only if that person has a separately confirmed appointment.

Dean’s Completion Fellowship Recipients Who Do Not Complete the FPO by January 31/May 31

If a student holding a Dean’s Completion Fellowship does not complete the FPO by the deadline (January 31 for those who hold the fellowship in the fall, and May 31 for those who hold it in the spring), and therefore does not convert to PGRA employment status, then the student simply continues on as a DCE student, with no guaranteed funding from the Graduate School (except in cases noted below) and no further opportunity to convert to a PGRA. The student may apply to and receive any funding opportunities that other DCE students have access to, including AI appointments, departmental funds, external awards, etc.

Because the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is intended to complement and supplement currently available funding for DCE students, sixth-year students holding the fellowship in the fall semester who do not convert to PGRA status and who have previously qualified for a banked year of guaranteed fellowship funding from the Graduate School (because of a qualifying external award, because of participation in IHUM, etc.) are allowed to draw on that funding in the spring semester of the sixth year. In other words, while the Dean’s Completion Fellowship replaces any funding they may have otherwise been guaranteed by the Graduate School in the fall semester, they would nonetheless be able to recoup any promised spring-semester funding that they still require. Generally no previously guaranteed funding from the Graduate School will be moved to a seventh year, however, we have provided flexibility for those in the first year of DCE status or entering DCE status in the coming year to use a banked funding year in their seventh year. In addition, there is an ongoing exception in cases of the childbirth and adoption accommodation. Any questions about a student’s funding should be referred to Mary Bechler.

While we recognize that not all recipients of the Dean’s Completion Fellowship will successfully complete the FPO by the deadline in order to covert to PGRA employment status, it is expected that departments will in good faith attempt to select students who may finish in time to qualify to convert to a PGRA. If no such student(s) can be identified, this opportunity should be assigned to an eligible student most likely to benefit from the fellowship funding, as this may still have a positive effect on the overall time to degree for that student. Departments would be notified by the Graduate School of any concerns prospectively and would have the opportunity to address those concerns before any final future changes to allocation of slots.

Honorific Fellowships and the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program

As noted above, the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program is intended to supplement any existing programs to help with funding pressures in the sixth (and currently seventh) year. The Graduate School honorific fellowship rules were recently relaxed to also allow students to hold these fellowships in any year up to and including the seventh, in response to funding pressures associate with Covid-19. Honorific fellowship selection occurs sufficiently early in the spring semester to allow departments to know whether their nominees have been selected to receive an honorific fellowship before determining who will receive a sixth-year-funding slot.

Honorific fellowships are for the most promising and outstanding dissertations. Nominees should reasonably be able to complete the dissertation in the honorific fellowship year, and therefore may hold the fellowship in any final year of regular enrollment (provided they will likely complete the FPO in the fellowship year) or in a sixth (and, this coming year, seventh) year. If they wish it, honorific fellowship recipients are given the same opportunity to convert to PGRA employment as outlined above, but only in cases where they complete the FPO by the end of the fall semester. Winners of the honorific fellowships who do not complete the FPO by the end of January (and are therefore not eligible to convert to PGRA status) continue on in the spring term with full funding through their honorific fellowship. In this way the honorific fellowships for humanities and social sciences students continue to be the most prestigious and generous awards possible, as they come with the same programmatic and employment opportunities as the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA Program, but pay honorific fellowship recipients at the honorific fellowship rate, which is higher than the standard fellowship rate. Additionally, honorific fellowship recipients are guaranteed spring semester fellowship funding at the higher rate if they do not qualify for the PGRA appointment.

Honorific fellowships nominees are due by March 1. The Fellowship Subcommittee is then asked to make final selections and recommendations about honorific fellowships in time for the Graduate School to notify departments of competition outcomes by early April. Final notifications to honorific fellowship recipients will go out by mid-April.

Departments then have until May 1 to inform the Graduate School whom they would like to appoint to their allotted Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slots. Departments will know by early April whether a nominee for the honorific fellowships has been selected to receive an honorific fellowship, and therefore should not be selected as a recipient of a Dean’s Completion Fellowship slot, because the honorific fellowship will pay recipients at a higher rate (while they are still students), are guaranteed for a full year, and will also come with the possibility of conversion to a PGRA employment appointment if the student does complete the FPO before the end of January.

Recap of Timeline

  • No later than March 1, 2021 – Graduate School informs departments of Dean’s Completion Fellowship slot allocation.
  • March 1, 2021 – Honorific Fellowship nominations due.
  • Mid-April 2021 – Honorific Fellowship recipients selected and announced.
  • May 1, 2021 – Deadline for departments to notify the Graduate School about who should receive the Dean’s Completion Fellowship/PGRA slots.
  • June 1, 2021 – Deadline for Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients to accept the offer letter issued by the Graduate School.
  • August 1, 2021, to January 31, 2022 – Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients holding the fellowship in the fall who complete the FPO convert to PGRA employment status (rolling basis, based on FPO date). This also applies to Honorific Fellowship recipients who wish to take part in this program. Note that students who wish to teach a class as part of their PGRA appointment must complete the FPO no later than December 31, as spring term courses begin in January under the new academic calendar.
  • January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022 – Dean’s Completion Fellowship recipients holding the fellowship in the spring who complete the FPO convert to PGRA employment status (rolling status, based on FPO date).
  • July 31, 2022 – last possible day of PGRA appointment for students who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship or an Honorific Fellowship in the previous fall.
  • December 31, 2022 – last possible day of PGRA appointment for students who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the previous spring and who did not teach a course as part of their PGRA activities in the fall semester.
  • January 15, 2023 – last possible day of PGRA appointment for students who held the Dean’s Completion Fellowship in the previous spring and who taught a course as part of their PGRA activities in the fall semester.